Hello everyone, I am pretty new here. I just submitted this story to a couple different magazines and I wanted to get some feedback on here just to gauge whether or not it'll get published. This is the first 500 words of the story. It's about 5000 words, so I hope you enjoy it and any criticism would be appreciated.

Penance

I suppose I have the devil to thank. He's probably not the most likely candidate for an old-fashioned, post-marked, lick-the-envelope, delivered-by-the-post-man thank you card. But if Hell had a street address recognized by the U.S. Postal service, you can bet your bottom dollar Lucifer would get one. From me.

My gratitude to Satan is odd. Odd in many ways, I guess. For one, I am a Catholic priest, and have been for the last half of a century. And for another, most people, except maybe for his worshippers themselves, would never thank the devil for anything—even if he were to hold the door open for them on a blustery winter day.

I'm a man of the Lord, though that hasn't always been the case. I grew up in the church. Not the Catholic Church, per se, but an Evangelical church where my father doubled as my pastor. It was always assumed from a young age that I, too, would become a pastor at the church. The youngest pastor Ely has ever seen, my father would say. However this fantasy of his - I suppose fantasy is a fitting word - was never meant to be fulfilled. I know that now because the Lord always had a different plan for me.

When I was a senior in high school I had an epiphany. This was the kind of epiphany that comes like a heavyweight's punch from your blindside and completely rattles your world. I didn't believe in the boogeyman, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny nor fairytales. The reason? Well, there was no substantial evidence to any of these "stories." If no substantiation makes people disbelieve in these things, why then would people believe in a supreme being? All of these stories are designed to get children to mind their P's and Q's.

That's when it donned on me; the bible is a collection of fairy tales and God is the Santa Claus of the Great North Pole in the sky. And where did that leave Mary? I guess I always supposed she was the head elf, in charge of all the elves (saints).

Before going off to college - where I’d decided I'd study Evolutionary Biology - I had to have the painful talk with my father in which I’d told him I wouldn't be taking over in his stead. I can still, to this day, see the hurt in his eyes. Such a disappointment I must've been to him. And the worst part; he never got to see me recapture my faith. Even though I didn't end up taking over his parish that he had spent so many years building, I'm sure he's watching me from Heaven, proud that I've returned to the flock.